Yes, It's (Sometimes) Ok To Be Inefficient


Wherever you turn in the blogosphere, you’ll probably encounter dozens of tips on how to be more productive, efficient, and super-focused. A recent news item says that over 90 minutes each workweek is spent on idle web surfing. Upon reading this, the overly productive types are probably going “The horror!”, not realizing that there’s a simple truth behind such news:

We can’t escape inefficiency.

No matter how organized we think we are, it’s only human to encounter it at least once during the day. Since it’s an integral part of our humanity, maybe inefficiency is something we need. After all, having such a structured, seamless routine takes all the fun out of work. But we need that element of fun when it comes to work – especially if we’re expected to keep doing it for most of our lives.

There’s inefficiency that leads you down the path of overdue projects and needless exhaustion. That’s negative inefficiency – the one you want to avoid. But there’s also a type of inefficiency that gives you an extra boost of energy or inspiration during the day. This type of inefficiency is positive and leads to some unexpected, but much needed, surprises. How can you tell the difference between positive and negative inefficiency?

First of all, look at your schedule. If your inefficiency affects your preferred schedule in such a way that you keep rearranging things and only meet deadlines 10% of the time, then your inefficiency is negative. If, however, you feel like you’re being inefficient but you’re still meeting deadlines, then you have nothing to worry about.

The next symptom is the guilt. It’s not the presence of guilt per se that determines whether your inefficiency is positive or negative, but the reason why you’re feeling guilty. Are you guilty because if your clients knew what you were doing they’d fire you? Are you guilty because you’re actually enjoying yourself even if common sense tells you to panic and fall under the pressure of a big project? Or are you guilty because you know that watching yet another funny YouTube video doesn’t really contribute to your well-being and happiness?

If you’re feeling guilty simply because of what others might think, you’re just being self-conscious. If, however, you’re feeling guilty because YOU think your inefficiency is a waste of time, then it’s very likely that it is.

How do you integrate inefficiency in your life? First of all, you need to make time for it. This is important because inefficiency makes you open to ideas, images, sounds, and thoughts outside your work. Don’t schedule tasks, appointments, and projects as if you were a cyborg. Give yourself some extra time to goof off. You’re a web worker, right? You can make that happen if you try hard enough.

It also helps to develop a general sense of awareness. Know that everything you experience, all the stimuli you’re receiving, is something that will be part of something greater someday – whether it’s a novel you’ll write, a website you’ll design, or the next big startup.

Although inefficiency and procrastination create such advantages and ‘happy accidents’, especially for creative types, I wouldn’t make a habit of it. Like all things, inefficiency is ok as long as it happens in moderation. So go forth and be inefficient – but not to the detriment of your quality of life and work!

When was the last time you were inefficient? How did it affect your overall performance at work? Did it give you new ideas or did it just eat away at your time?


Serge Lescouarnec


I would not confuse ‘idle time’ and ‘inefficiency’.
I have been working (too) many hours recently and would not mind finding time to watch the river flow or spend a day at the beach the shore as we say in New Jersey).

Naps are underrated.

I mentioned the Scandinavian approach in Leisure is Vital

‘The French Guy from New Jersey’

Comments are closed.